An Economic Evaluation of Local Government Approaches to Koala Conservation

Clive Hamilton , Daniel Lunney & Alison Matthews

* Clive Hamilton is Executive Director of The Australia Institute, and Daniel Lunney and Alison Matthews are ecologists in the Biodiversity Research and Management Division of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. 


Local decision-making is crucial to the process of retaining the habitat of threatened species on private lands. However, there has been little attention given to the issue of local government and biodiversity conservation. The objective of this study was to assist Coffs Harbour City Council interpret a draft Plan of Management for koalas within its borders. The study was designed to answer two questions: 1) What will be the economic impact on residents of the requirement to abide by New South Wales state environmental planning policy to conserve koalas ( SEP P 44 ), by way of individual development approvals; and 2) What will be the economic impact on residents of implementing SEPP 44 by way of a shire-wide Plan of Management. A comparison of the costs and benefits of a shire-wide plan shows that the benefits were more than double those of the costs of piecemeal decision-making, i.e. a decision after a development application has been lodged. Thus, a strategic approach is cost-efficient. The success of this work should provide an impetus for other councils currently considering whether to adopt a shire-wide program for conserving remnant koala habitat on private lands within their jurisdiction.